Earlier this year (April 5, 2017), I had the pleasure of working with La Raza in co-organizing a big Immigration Symposium. Through the co-presidency of Maria and I, Pasifika Law Students attached our name to the immigration symposium.
La Raza student org taught me the valuable lesson of People Power! Through them, we were able to reach more students and attorneys to attend our event. Thanks to their strong brand, leadership, and the care of their community, we had a great turn out.
I did reach out to the Polynesian/Pacific leadership in San Diego. But I was not able to get anyone from our community to attend. (Maybe next time.) I wasn't discouraged because change takes time. Pasifika Law Students in San Diego is a founding chapter so it'll take time for us to spread the word.
The reason Maria and I believed that "immigration" is an important Pacific Islander issue is because many pacific islanders are immigrants, and a good portion of us are undocumented. Although Native Hawaiian, Native Samoan, Native Chamorro are indigenous to their territories occupied by the U.S., the other pacific islanders in the U.S. are not indigenous and therefore immigrants if they are not born in the U.S. Some islanders have concerns about immigration under the new administration. This event would have helped answer those questions because the panelists included federal attorneys and immigration attorneys.
I am the daughter of a Samoan father and a Tongan mother.
It’s important for me to mention especially as I network within ethnic forums of my Samoan and Tongan groups. I feel a kinship with both cultures now that I’m an adult.
I know that ethnicity plays a strong role in our Polynesian identity especially as we globalize. We have to represent our people as well as our individual selves. For those of you who identify with multiple ethnicities, I’m sure you can relate to the complexities of choosing.
I decided not to choose to identify solely as a Samoan or solely as a Tongan because neither would be true for me. I’m both. And as a Californian, my socioeconomic status distinguished me more so than ethnicity. Not to mention, sometimes Americans can’t tell islanders apart let alone a yellow faced girl with curly hair from another yellow faced girl with curly hair.
Growing more and more comfortable within my skin, I’ve taken more ownership of being a proud Samoan and being a proud Tongan. I don’t feel half of anything. I feel twice as capable.
Audre Lorde says, “If you didn’t define yourself for yourself, you’d be crunched into other people’s fantasies of you and eaten alive.”
I take this decision to define myself, and peace in my spirit, as I pursue higher education in social justice, and as I freelance as a writer and visual artist.